Cleavage = Control? I Don’t Think So!

Cleavage = Control? I Don’t Think So! March 2, 2014

There’s power in cleavage?

That was the claim of a recent Detroit Free Press article by columnist Georgea Klovanis which had me steaming.  “Cleavage,” the article informed me, “is a powerful, powerful thing.”

The article quoted Elisabeth Dale, who calls herself a “breast expert” and who writes a blog titled The Breast Life.  “Breasts are very magical,” says Dale.  

“…They have the power to sustain life.  They’re a huge part of a woman’s own sexuality.  They’ve been taken over by advertising as a way to get attention.

“It doesn’t matter your sexual orientation.  It doesn’t matter your income. It doesn’t matter your age.  Everybody loves breasts.  The power of cleavage seems to be sustained over and over again.”

So the most important thing for women to remember, according to Dale, is to

“wield your boob power responsibly.”

In the face of such brash disregard for feminine dignity, I couldn’t help remembering back to the early days of the feminist movement, when Gloria Steinem tossed their bras into a trash can outside the Atlantic City Convention Center protesting the 1968 Miss America Pageant.  Women were not, they averred, “sex objects”.  They demanded to be viewed as whole persons, not simply as big breasts and ample buttocks which appealed to a man’s prurient interests.

I disagreed with many of the tenets of feminism–most notably their alliance with Planned Parenthood in support of abortion.  I  agreed, though, with the feminists’ assertion that it is wrong to ogle women’s breasts, or to show no regard for women as individuals and to focus only on their appearance.

So what happened to the feminists’ insistence that women be respected as having intrinsic dignity, regardless of whether a man finds them “sexy”?  Somehow that noble ideal’s been lost once again, leaving many in Generation X to fall prey to style “experts” whose immodest fashions and photoshopped models emblazon the covers of fashion magazines.  Short skirts and plunging necklines are de rigueur.

The Detroit Free Press’ feature on cleavage was so offensive, according to the Huffington Post, that the newspaper chose to remove it and replace it with another post on the subject.  Here, though, is a screen print showing you a bit of the survey from the original article:

When the controversial article was removed, the Free Press began the replacement article with an explanation (sort of) from the editor:

Editor’s note: This page previously included a related poll concerning cleavage.  Due to reader feedback and questions about the poll, we’ve removed it entirely and replaced it with the original column on the subject published Jan. 26, 2014.

The article wasn’t taken down fast enough for many regular Free Press readers, however, and readers expressed their outrage–in the comments, and in other social media outlets.  Blogger Jim Romenesko captured some of the comments from offended Detroit Free Press readers over on Twitter.

In the wake of the Free Press’ cleavage controversy, several writers rose up to address the issue of modesty and women’s figures.  One perspective which I particularly appreciated was that of my friend, author and fellow blogger Marge Fenelon.  I’ve invited Marge to participate in the conversation here at Seasons of Grace; and she has offered a guest post which offers a full measure of clarity and charity.  Thanks, Marge!

Cleavage does not rule

by Marge Fenelon

Recently, the Detroit Free Press ran a column titled, Cleavage rules! Enduring allure of women’s figures gives them some measure of control over their lives. It was written by Free Press staffer Georgea Klovanis and was accompanied by a poll that asked readers to vote on the cleavage of 12 red carpet celebrity images, choosing either “good” or “bad.” The poll caused a wave of reader outrage and has since been removed from the paper’s website on February 4.

I’m sorry that the column itself didn’t cause outrage, because it should have. Why didn’t it? It didn’t because we’re becoming increasingly oblivious to the devil’s ploys to degrade women on all fronts (no pun intended). When God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the Woman,” (Gen. 3:15), he was talking about Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and every other woman ever created.

In fairness to Klovanis, she made some valid points in the column. For example, the mainstream does tend to follow carpet trends, and because of that, we should expect to see a whole lot more of it in the workplace and at social events.

My agreement stops there.

Let’s go back to the title, which suggests that a woman can and should use her cleavage as a means of control over her life. In actuality, it’s not the woman’s life she’d be controlling with her cleavage – it would be the people around her and the way they perceive her. To take it a step further, she wouldn’t really be controlling her life; she’d be controlling the way people respond to her generously-revealed breasts.

Guys, be honest. When was the last time you saw a woman with a low cut top and thought to yourself, Gee! Look at all that cleavage! She must be knowledgeable and competent!? Perhaps you did think that she was knowledgeable and competent after getting to know her, but I’ll bet your initial reaction was from a lower drive.

Gals, be honest with yourselves, too. The last time you wore a plunging neckline (if you ever have), did you think, This proves I’m astute and adept and will enable me to accomplish my life goals!? Maybe it made you feel stronger, but I’ll bet what got stronger was your conviction that you could use your breasts to influence others; a conviction motivated by a lower drive.

My experience is that showing cleavage is a sign of insecurity and low self-worth rather than one of strength and empowerment. In general, women flash cleavage because they’re desperate for something they didn’t receive as children – holy, unconditional love, especially from their fathers. Fathers are a reflection of God’s love and an image of the heavenly Father for their children. Additionally, a father’s pure, holy love helps his daughter to discover her femininity and grow into her womanhood. When that’s missing, women don’t believe they can be loved and admired for themselves. So, they use their breasts to attract that love and admiration. The sad thing is, they end up receiving the wrong kind of love, which just perpetrates the whole problem.

Years back, I mentored a young woman who persistently dressed with lots of cleavage showing. My initial inclination was to request that she wear higher necklines when she met with me, but I knew that wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter. Instead, I consistently commended her capabilities and praised the wonderful person that she was. Gradually, she stopped showing cleavage completely. She needed to feel confident about who she was, not what she had to hang out.

I wish all women could realize that cleavage does not rule, and an alluring figure does not give us control over our lives, not even in the tiniest measure. Breasts…cleavage…allure… It’s all part of who we are as women – but only a part – and it needs to be put into proper perspective.


Marge Fenelon is a Catholic wife, mother, author, columnist, and speaker. She’s a frequent contributor to a number of Catholic publications and websites and is a regular guest on Catholic radio. She’s written several books about Marian devotion and Catholic family life and is a regular guest on Catholic radio. Her latest book is Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom (Catholicmom.Com Books) (Ave Maria Press, 2013). You can find Marge at


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